Okay, now—let’s get real. With the recent release of Mortal Kombat (Acclaim, for Super NES, $59.99 to $79.99, and Game Boy, $30 to $45; Arena, for Sega Genesis, $59.99 to $74.99, and Game Gear, $30 to $45), culture watchers seem to have suddenly rediscovered video games. And guess what they’ve found? That some of these things are very, very rough stuff. Of course, most parents (and EW readers) have known this for some time—not that the knowledge has made the (violence in certain games easier to swallow. The real question is, Are the home versions of Mortal Kombat different from any of the popular action games on the electronic-game market today?
To keep this game in perspective, remember: Every fall for several years now, software makers have been introducing progressively graphic martial-arts video games. Last year, the big contender was Street Fighter II. This year, it’s Mortal Kombat. But the game is hardly the most violent cartridge on the shelves.
In fact, Mutant League Football (Electronic Arts, for Sega Genesis, $49.95) is much worse. Set in a far-off future when warfare has been replaced by a gladiatorial style of football, the game involves characters who are routinely dismembered, decapitated, and incinerated. Mutant League revels in the kind of sick humor that Mortal Kombat only dabbles in, but it hasn’t drawn nearly as much attention—perhaps because only aliens, mutants, and robots are involved, rather than realistic human characters.
Likewise, T2: The Arcade Game (Arena, for Super NES, $59.95, Game Boy, $29.95, Sega Genesis, $49.95, and Game Gear, $34.95) is virtually nonstop mayhem. You are armed with a machine gun, a shotgun, and a rocket launcher, and your objective is to blow away everything that shows up on screen. But since, for the most part, you’re slaughtering androids, the bloodshed hasn’t caused an uproar from adults.
By these standards, Mortal Kombat is typical—that is, typically brutal—video-game violence. The setting of the game is a martial-arts competition. To the death. What’s bugging out the critics are the game’s ”finishing moves” (called ”fatalities” in the arcade version). Depending upon your character, you may kill a defeated opponent via any one of several gruesome methods. For example, ”Kano” rips the still-pulsating heart out of the chest of his opponent. ”Johnny Cage” can decapitate an enemy with a single punch, except on Super NES. And on the Sega Genesis and Game Gear formats, after ”Sub-Zero” removes his victim’s spinal cord, it still twitches as he lifts it triumphantly into the air.
Sega has labeled its version as not suitable for children under 13. Nintendo has gone further, cutting the blood and replacing the coups de grace with less realistic endings (e.g., turning a rival into ice). Neither approach goes far enough, however. What both of these companies ought to do is channel their violent impulses elsewhere—namely, into the obliteration of such stupidly violent games. Then programmers could apply themselves to creating software that lifts the heart and mind, not the spinal cord. Mortal Kombat: D Mutant League: C- T2: D-